BELGRADE, April 18 (Reuters) - Partizan Belgrade threw the Serbian title race wide open after a 3-1 win at champions and league leaders Red Star in a tense city derby marred by sporadic crowd trouble on Tuesday.
Four police officers were injured before the kickoff in clashes with Partizan fans, who pelted them with stones and flares as they approached the stadium.
They also set fire to two rows of seats at their end in the first half, forcing firemen to move into their section with a hose to put out the blaze at halftime.
The fixture, which has a long history of crowd trouble, was played amid tight security, with hundreds of riot police deployed in and around Red Star’s stadium.
There was plenty of action on the pitch, too, as Partizan outplayed their arch-rivals and drew level with them on 40 points after all teams’ tallies were halved at the end of the regular season. Both have six games left to play.
Brazilian forward Leonardo fired Partizan ahead with a delightful 21st-minute free kick, curling it past goalkeeper Filip Manojlovic from 20 metres.
Striker Uros Djurdjevic missed two sitters for Partizan in the first half and the visitors were punished shortly after the break, when Ghanaian striker Richmond Boakye equalised with a calm finish after a sweeping move down the right.
However, the Partizan faithful were on song again midway through the second half and lit dozens of flares to celebrate Leandre Tawamba’s scrambled goal from close range.
Livewire Leonardo, who gave his markers a roasting all afternoon, sealed Partizan’s win with a superbly dinked finish in the 80th minute, sparking wild celebrations at the away end. (Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Neville Dalton)